Demolition


Viewed – 20 September 2016  Online-rental

I think it can mostly be said that actor Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the more assured talents around today and often the roles he chooses are worth checking out, more often than not for his often quirky, complex performance.

Demolition

This is no exception as he plays Davis, a guy involved in a car crash that results in the untimely death of his wife.  Suddenly surrounded by grieving relatives and concerned friends however, Jake finds he doesn’t know how to grieve and finds the world around him unrelateable.  So Davis starts to exhibit rather strange behaviour, starting with writing letters of complaint to a vending machine company, that results in an unconventional friendship with the woman who works there (Naomi Watts).

This was a really interesting idea, brought to life by Gyllenhaal’s oddball but no less human performance which I’m sure is actually a rather accurate representation of how death can affect certain people.  He’s aided by an equally enjoyable Watts who herself is a little strange and searching for that ‘something’ that seems to evade both characters lives.  At times it reminded me in a not so surreal way of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (especially with the various memories, flashbacks etc. to Davis’ deceased wife).  Add to this a rather touching and unusual script that doesn’t dwell too heavily on the tragedy but rather peppers it with cleverly-observed humour to make this pretty entertaining considering the subject.  Support all round is also decent too especially from Chris Cooper as Davis’s straight-talking father-in-law.  I found this refreshingly different and certainly had more to it than I was expecting, with again Gyllenhaal proving why he’s one of my favourites.

Well worth your time.

Verdict:  4 /5

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Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

Birdman_2014-8

This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5

Ten of the best


Top Ten lists are sort of something I enjoy doing, especially at the end of each year.  But Top Ten Favourite Movies of all time?  Harder.  I used to have a list a while back of which some of the movies below used to appear on.  Yet I gave up putting them in a particular order as they are so different some of them, comparing is impossible.  So find below Ten movies I think have had the greatest effect on me, either growing up, inspiring me (writing, movie tastes) or just hitting me on an emotional level.

fight-club

Fight Club

Made me a big fan of the movies of David Fincher and has arguably Edward Norton’s finest turn.  Style, effects work in a movie that didn’t need it, a great soundtrack, that twist and endlessly quotable.

Gran Torino

Emotional, heart-wrenching, funny, touching with one of Eastwood’s best performances.  The cast of newcomers surrounding him are also first-rate.

gran torino

21 Grams

Complex and twist-filled with three stunning performances (especially Naomi Watts) and a script that is quite literally genius.  Tough going but well worth the journey.

21grams

Pulp Fiction

Possibly still my all time favourite movie.  The dialogue is amazing, funny, very cool and  believable.  The sound track is stuff of legend and performances across the board are superb.

pulpfiction

Leon

Natalie Portman’s debut.  Ice-cool, Gary Oldman’s looniest but greatest villain, Jean Reno as a lovable assassin and Luc Besson on stunning form.

leon

Annie Hall

All of Woody Allen’s best ideas, cleverest dialogue and touching observations rolled into one perfect movie.  Diane Keaton is excellent and Allen has never been funnier.

Annie-Hall

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron fully realising Terminator … stunning effects work, amazing action sequences, Arnie at his best, Linda Hamilton as the most bad-ass female role model since Ellen Ripley.  The ultimate sci-fi blockbuster.

terminator 2

Blue Velvet

Weird but one of David Lynch’s most coherent works, with a great cast (Hopper is just plain nuts) and haunting music and a dream-like atmosphere.  Sexy and disturbing just how Lynch should be.

blue-velvet

Goodfellas

The finest gangster movie ever made, fast, packed with ideas, dialogue, people getting wacked, great dialogue and great performances throughout.  Martin Scorsese at his very best.

goodfellas

The Shining

Stunningly filmed, creepy as hell, scary, with an amazing Jack Nicholson and a true directing auteur in the shape of the late Stanley Kubrick.  The best horror movie ever made?  Quite possibly.

The-Shining

The problem with remakes


Not all horror remakes are bad, and some can bring a lot to an old concept, ultimately improving upon it … yet last night I sat down and watched on television the remake of Japanese cult horror The Ring.  Ok, it starred Naomi Watts, had a decent director (Gore Verbinski) and was fairly well put together on a technical basis.  Much like the original too, the use of a creepy videotape and hallucinations helped build an unnerving atmosphere.  Yet then the movie does the unthinkable, and humanizes the character of the evil girl, this time named Samara, by showing footage of her time in a psychiatric hospital, and instead of the horrible vision of a small figure with hair over their face, we see it’s actually just a very troubled child.  Naomi Watts over-acts somewhat from the very beginning and frankly her young son is creepier than Samara, which just baffles me.  Now looking back at the original ‘Ring’, I recall only glimpses of the girl, Sadako, a flash of a hand with no fingernails, the same creepy atmosphere, but very little humanization – and you never saw her face.  This then makes the ending something of horror legend, copied in the remake, much more terrifying as what crawls out of that TV and stands up to scare its victim to death, is not human, but pure evil – and just a close up of a blood-shot eyeball is all the viewer gets.  In the remake we see the girl, albiet zombiefied, but still a girl, with a stern pissed off look, and guess what – it’s not scary.  Well done remake.  You just killed the money shot! Continue reading

21 Grams


Viewed – 25 August 2010  DVD

Always wanted to see this, mostly down to it having one of my favourite actresses in it, Naomi Watts.  Yet I had never got around to it until now.  Following what at first appear to be 3 unrelated stories, former drug addict Watts now married with two kids, an ex-con whose found God (Benicio Del Toro) and a heart-transplant patient on the brink of death (Sean Penn).  One tragic incident then has a devastating effect on all 3 characters lives and ultimately brings them together.  Told with a fractured narrative where it isn’t at first clear if you are viewing events from the past, present or future, with no actual explanation of when things are set, this thought-provoking drama could alienate some, who could first have a ‘I can’t make head nor tail of this’ reaction to it.  Yet I seriously urge you to stick with it, because like a puzzle, the pieces slowly begin to fall into place, and hopefully like me you’ll have a ‘I get it!’ moment of realisation, coming away amazed by the movie’s intelligence and raw, emotional power.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s movie boasts three incredible performances from its three main cast members, with a career defining Naomi Watts, even better than her amazing turn in Mulholland Drive, and with moments of intensity and totally convincing acting, this is one of those movies where all 3 should have got Oscars.  Sean Penn can add another great role to his already heavy-weight CV, and the often underrated Del Toro proves himself yet again as someone with real range and talent.  Not exactly cheery subject matter, I admit and has some strong scenes of violence and sex, but the authentic approach, fly on the wall style and heart-breaking twists and turns left me, in a word … astonished.

Verdict:  5 /5